The Vikings receiving corps was disappointing in 2022. Star wideout Justin Jefferson broke all kinds of records, including the Vikings franchise records for receiving yards and receptions in a single season. He also became the youngest player in NFL history to lead the league in both categories, breaking an 86-year-old record. In addition to that, Jefferson is the player with the most receiving yards in the first three career seasons ever.
However, behind him, the purple team employs Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn. Both players are solid weapons, but neither has elite speed. Thielen, especially, fell off a cliff in 2022 and is no longer a number-one caliber receiver. Some even say he is no longer a number two option, and he won’t suddenly find another gear at age 33.
Osborn recorded almost half of his yards in two games, so his inconsistency is a problem. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for tight end T.J. Hockenson right before the trade deadline. He added a security-blanket dimension to the offense. A speedy weapon would be a perfect addition to the team.
Vikings Should Pursue This WR in Free Agency
Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is expected to hit free agency when the new league year starts on March 15. Hardman played for the Kansas City Chiefs in his first four seasons, catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs selected him with the 56th overall pick in the 2019 draft coming out of Georgia.
The speedster has eye-opening speed, and he proved it at the NFL Draft Combine when he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. His pace is not just a number. He also plays like a speedy guy. In four career seasons, Hardman recorded 2,088 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns,
He can also be used in the running game. His jet sweeps can be a dangerous weapon. Hardman added 125 rushing yards on 20 attempts. Two of those runs were touchdowns. His skillset doesn’t end in the offense. He can return kicks and punts.
For the Vikings, he would be a valuable asset in the offense. His elite speed could take the top off the defense, allowing Jefferson and Hockenson to dominate the medium area even more because the safeties have to account for his deep speed.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell could be more creative with his offensive game plan if he had a player with Hardman’s skills. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be the starting QB in 2023, as the Vikings leadership announced last week, and he has proven to be an electric deep ball thrower. Cousins could feed Hardman on go-routes every now and then. The lack of explosive plays was one of the Vikings’ biggest weaknesses in 2022.
Spotrac.com projects Mecole Hardman’s value at $11 million per year. That is a lot of money for a player with roughly 500 receiving yards per season, but his ceiling is much higher. In addition, Hardman’s impact on the offense can’t be measured with numbers. He can unlock some things in the Vikings’ offense and is a perfect fit.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt